Russia closes land border with Poland and Norway to foreigners over coronavirus fears

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Russian government said on Saturday it was closing the country’s land border with Poland and Norway to foreigners from midnight as a precautionary measure to try to stop the spread of coronavirus.

It said the closure would apply to all foreigners passing through those border points for tourism, study, work or private visits. Citizens of neighboring Belarus and official delegations would be exempt, it said in a statement.

Russian authorities, who have already taken a slew of measures to cancel flights and trains, impose quarantine rules, and partially close Russia’s long land border with China, said on Saturday they had registered 14 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours. The country previously had 45 cases.

Nobody in Russia has yet died of the virus, they say. Some doctors have called the statistics into question however given what they say is the patchy nature of testing.

Russia’s Finance Ministry said earlier on Saturday that coronavirus was having a bigger effect on the economy than a slump in global oil prices because it complicated transportation, tourism and trade.

It said Russia’s budget deficit could now reach 0.9% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 on current oil prices.

The city of Moscow said earlier on Saturday it was making school attendance optional starting on Monday in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

And Russia’s Ministry of Education recommended that all regions temporarily switch to remote learning if they deemed it necessary.

Reporting by Polina Devitt; Editing by Andrew Osborn